Seared Scallops with Brown Butter

🎁 LG,BE’s 12 Days of Christmas🎁

DAY 4

Last year for 12 Days of LG,BE, I sprinkled in a few different fancy schmancy proteins since it is after all the holidays…but also because I just love trying new seafood dishes and this one has become very popular for me at home as of late. We are talking about SCALLOPS!

This recipe is very technical and requires a good amount of knowledge to understand how to work with these delicious, but finicky little gems of the sea. After several asks from friends on how to properly sear scallops, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to share what I’ve learned.

First we need to talk about:
1. FROZEN .VS. FRESH

Obviously, fresh protein is always going to be the best option when it comes to cooking. As much as I’d love to be able to cook scallops right out of the sea, I have to remind myself that I live in Ottawa. Not to mention that any quality protein can get pricey. Even if you order from a specialty shop, there is still a possibility of the scallops being harvested and shipped a day or two before they’re available for you to purchase or cook.

Sometimes even seeing fresh scallops on ice at the grocery store can be misleading — ideally, you they should be eaten a day or two after removed from their shell. Three days on ice or in commercial fridges is pushing the shelf life of that super special protein.

SO, like a lot of other home cooks willing to learn on a whim, we have no choice but to depend on frozen scallops bought from regular grocery stores & I’m here to tell you that that is completely okay. Frozen scallops are usually packaged within a day after harvesting in order to preserve the gem of the sea as long as possible.

2. “DRY-PACKED” .VS. “WET-PACKED”

The next main important tip I can offer is to determine whether your scallops have been ‘wet’ or ‘dry’ packed–you want DRY scallops, folks. ‘Dry-packed’ scallops will look slightly pink in hue, will pleasantly smell like the sea when thawed, and most importantly are not stored with any chemical additives.

A ‘wet-packed’ scallop means that they have been stored with a solution made up of water and phosphate. Although this helps the scallops stay preserved for longer, it also means the scallops retain a lot of water which is not ideal for this recipe.

For one, it adds weight to the protein and considering you buy by weight, you’re paying waaay more for no reason. Secondly, the solution means that when cooked, the scallop releases all of that moisture eso you end up steaming the scallops instead of searing them to a perfect golden crispy brown. You can usually spot these scallops since they look unrealistically ginormous, are more of a pure white in colour, and will usually be sitting in some sort of liquid if buying fresh.

If you have a Costco membership, I’ve found that these are the best dry-packed frozen ones I can find close to me and honestly, you can’t beat the price (usually around $18.99) for how many you get.

My last important tip for you guys:

3. SCALLOPS HAVE A RIGHT-SIDE UP.

Now this tip I actually have to thank Mr. Gordon Ramsay himself. After watching him cook a scallop dish in his Masterclass (yes, I have one of those subscriptions and I love it), I realized I hadn’t even known that there is indeed a proper side to cook a scallop. Like, who would have thought to check?!

Scallops have a top-heavy side with a slight lean, and then a smaller more circular or regular shaped side. Well, I’m here to tell you that the odd-ball side is the right way guys. When you hold a few scallops up in the palm of your hand and set them next to each other, you’ll notice that the odd side actually allows them to fit together like a strange mollusk puzzle – it also means you get more surface area to sear!

I noticed a huge difference after trying to sear all the other wrong sides on my first try ever and noticed that they didn’t even want to stand up straight in the pan. Sneaky lil buggers. It’s obviously not the end of the world if you sear them on the other side, but I just thought I’d share that tid bit with you all!

Now…. ARE YOU READY TO COOK THEM?

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 pound of scallops, (about 14-16) thawed in fridge overnight
    (crucial to thaw!! do not run under water unless in a air-tight package already)
  • 6 tablespoons of unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 tbsp of fresh lemon juice
  • 1-tbsp of neutral oil for searing
  • Salt

Start by heating a pan on medium-high heat.

Note: Using a stainless steel pan is best, but if you are like me and only have non-stick, you may not get the even caramelization of a sear on your scallop. Don’t be too discouraged though, use less oil in your non-stick skillet and you will still be able to achieve a sear.

Pat down your scallops in advance to dry off extra moisture. Ensure that you have them sitting on the right side (SEE TIP #3 ABOVE) facing up. As your pan heats up, drizzle about a tablespoon of oil. Swish around the pan to evenly coat it. Make sure the oil is not smoking before you do this – if the pan is too hot, lower the temperature or remove your pan to cool down for a few minutes.

Next, right before you are ready to sear, liberally salt the scallops. No pepper needed here, as it will burn as soon as it hits the pan.

Place your scallops seasoned side down — and DON’T. MOVE. THEM. I recommend working in batches since scallops cook fairly quick and if you overcrowd the pan, it may result in extra moisture that would be able to evaporate quickly enough to yield a sear.

Cook the scallops on the seasoned side for about 3 to 3 1/2 minutes. You will notice a browning appear along the sides of the scallop which is usually what the culinary world refers to as fond. It is the name for the little browned bits of food that are often stuck to the bottom of the pan,
Check one scallop to see if a seared crust has formed, before turning them all over and cooking for another 1-2 minutes in the pan.

Once scallops are done, place them on a separate dish. Repeat with the rest of your scallops, adding only the smallest amount of neutral oil to the pan to ensure the scallops do not stick.

Next up, brown butter time.
This means cooking the butter past its melting point until the milk solids start to toast and create this rich, nutty flavour that screams umami bomb.

In the same pan, lower the heat to to medium to prepare for the brown butter – I usually take the pan off the heat to prevent the fond from completely burning at this point. You also want to refrain from having the pan too hot since you will technically burn the butter and would have to restart. Return the pan to the heat when ready and add the butter. Swirl around the pan to evenly melt and continue to stir, scraping up the fond on the bottom to incorporate into the sauce.

Continue to stir with a silicone spatula to disperse the milk solids within your pan. It will foam slightly once completely melted and brown speckles will appear a the bottom of your pan. Be sure to watch the butter as it only takes a few minutes for it to turn into a caramel golden brown. If you smell the butter, it should smell of nutty richness.

Remove from the heat and immediately add the lemon juice for some acidity and perhaps a pinch of salt to taste. Spoon over your scallops and enjoy the slice of heaven you just created. Great for eating on their own, on a bed of arugula, or added to a pasta dish (a household fave).

As always, peace and good eats guys!
-A❁

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